Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is one of those beautiful plants for fall color that unfortunately gets mixed up with one of similar appearance but of very ill repute: poison ivy (Rhus radicans). The difference has traditionally been summed up in the phrase “Leaves of three let it be, leaves of five let it thrive!” Physically speaking, that’s the difference between Virginia creeper and poison ivy, Virginia has five leaves where poison ivy has three. Sometimes Virginia creeper will begin with new leaves in groups of three which often can lead people into believing it is poison ivy. Look for the mature leaves which should have a grouping of five.
Both Virginia creeper and poison ivy have some stunning fall color but there’s only one of the two I would allow in my garden. I find poison ivy in all the gardens and pull them when they are small. I wear gloves to weed out the poison ivy but I’m one of the fortunate one’s who isn’t effected by the uruishiol (which is the chemical that actually causes the skin rashes when you make contact with the ivy).
This Virginia creeper plant decided my back deck was a nice place to visit. I’ll cut it back after the foliage is finished.